The Houston Aeros know who they'll be playing this season. They know the date of their home opener, and they know the dates of five other home games. What they don't actually have yet, as the start of the AHL regular season draws close, is an actual schedule, and without an actual schedule, it's kind of hard for the Aeros to get the basics planned out.
For instance, the Aeros home opener is on October 16, but they don't know who they'll playing in that game. They're going to open the season on the road, but they don't know where. And as a season nears, it's kind of important for a team to know those kind of things so that the people behind the scenes can get travel arrangements, arena arrangements, ticket basics, and promotional items squared away and set for the season.
It's not the fault of the Aeros that this is taking so long. It's not really the fault of the AHL, either. The primary fault lies with one of the largest sporting entities in North America, the NBA.
The Aeros, along with the San Antonio Rampage, the Oklahoma City Barons, the Charlotte Checkers, and the Milwaukee Admirals, all share arenas with an NBA team. And since the AHL is a minor league, and since all of these teams are mere tenants in buildings controlled by the NBA team, their wants and desires are secondary to the NBA. So until the NBA gets its act together and releases a schedule, there's nothing that the AHL can do about scheduling. And as hard as it is to believe, the NBA sat on its ass and didn't release its schedule until just this Tuesday.
So now the AHL has to scramble to make the dates fit for all of its teams. And while scheduling sounds easy, the schedule makers have to set up so that a team's not playing in Houston one night and in Abbotsford,
Canada British Columbia on the next night. They're trying to set it up so that teams can make one swing through the Southwest and play Houston, Texas, San Antonio, and Oklahoma City on one road trip so as to cut down on travel costs.
For the Aeros, this means they're waiting to distribute their schedule to their season ticket holders so that they can plan their games accordingly. The Aeros don't yet know what day their midweek matinee school kid game yet is, so that they can't coordinate things with schools. It makes it hard for the Aeros to set up shop with a radio station since their games may be played on the same dates and times as the Texans, Astros, Rockets, and all of the college teams that have radio deals in Houston.
The biggest difficulty for the Aeros lies with traveling. Not knowing where they're going, when they're going, makes it difficult for the team to book flights. Once again, since the Aeros are a minor league team, they're not chartering flights like the big league teams do. They're flying on the same Continental and Southwest Airlines flight that the regular folks do, so it becomes hard to book flights that can fit all of the players, coaches, support staff, and equipment, not to mention the problems with hotel rooms.
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Luckily, 16 of the Aeros 40 road games are within busing distance of Houston, with six games scheduled, at some point, to be played in Austin, and five in San Antonio. The Aeros also know that they will be playing five games in Oklahoma City, which is welcoming a brand new AHL team this season.
With any luck, the Aeros should have their 2010-11 schedule by next week. Then the people behind the scenes can start readying the promotions schedule, and the giveaways, and booking radio time and trying to land a radio station to air the games. They can start booking flights and hotels.
Such is life in the minor leagues when you're waiting on the NBA to get its act together. Then again, the NBA kind of had to wait for LeBron James to make his decision on his employer for this season -- because that was going to be the team that all of the networks wanted every night.
So maybe it's not all the NBA's fault. Maybe, instead, we've got another very good reason to hate LeBron James.